Acknowledging some nerves before his first game in charge, Newcastle mentor Adam O’Brien is not betting the farm on the result of their season-opener against the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Though starting his debut season as an NRL head coach with a win would be preferable to the alternative, O’Brien will sleep soundly on Saturday night if the Knights play to the standards he expects of them all year.
"A win can mask some of your standards, so the team is really clear on the standards that I expect to see from us tomorrow that will hold us in good stead – not just for 80 minutes, but across the season," O’Brien told the media before the team’s final training run in Newcastle on Friday morning.
"I’ve said to the team that we’re not looking to the scoreboard for our feedback. As I’ve stated before, you can play poorly and win, and you can lose and play well.
"So I need to make sure that we’re really consistent in our footy and, it’s an old cliché, the scoreboard will take care of itself. But if you ask me which one I want, I certainly want the win."
Knights v Warriors - Round 1
O’Brien, who has served a 12-year apprenticeship as an assistant to Craig Bellamy at the Storm and Trent Robinson at the Roosters, could not be happier with Newcastle’s preparation.
Injuries helped ease a few round-one selection headaches and, despite some difficult decisions, "ultimately, the 17 that we settled on, I’m really pleased that they’ve earned their jersey".
Excited at the prospect of seeing new hooker Jayden Brailey combining with playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, and the performance of centres Gehamat Shibasaki and Enari Tuala in their Newcastle debuts, O’Brien is more concerned about how the Knights defend.
"From day one, we’ve spoken about setting a standard in terms of effort and with our defence," he said.
"I think our attack will evolve, just like every team … as the season goes on, but I’m really looking forward to us setting a real standard in terms of our effort, how resilient we are, and how much we’re willing to defend our home ground.
"We need to be patient and build our game. In the early rounds, I don’t think we need to be jumping into that feelgood attack straight away – we need to earn that right."
O’Brien expects Warriors half Blake Green to probe for weaknesses in the middle, and is concerned about the threat posed by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a from the back.
"If I’m honest, there’s been some pre-game nerves from the coach as well as the players," he said.
"I’d be understating the importance of the occasion if I wasn’t honest, but there’s certainly some confidence there.
"But I’m really happy with where the group’s at, both physically and mentally. I thought it’s been a really productive pre-season and we’ve prepared the best we can."